Roundabout

Academic 2008. With Helle Forsberg (UID) Amid Moradganjeh (UID) and Carsten Dymler (U. of Southern Denmark).

Roundabout. A fun, collaborative, and strategic game for three players

Roundabout. A fun, collaborative, and strategic game for three players

Research

Roundabout was the first project in which I took part in the interaction design MA program at Umeå Institute of Design. And it was a very demanding and challenging—but incredibly rewarding—project to start with!

The project—which had a total duration of three weeks (1 research, 2 conceptualizing and building a borad game)—started quite swiftly, and to some extent, abruptly, for we had to conduct an interview with three employees of PADO Metaware AB, a software developing startup company located in Umeå.

PADO office

The PADO Metaware AB office/house in Umeå. At the time of our visit, about 5 to 6 people were working there full-time.

Design is a game

The purpose of the previously mentioned interview was for us to build personas in order to find potential opportunities to help and promote teamwork in work environments through a simple board game.

The interviews

But first, before finding a problem—which most probably had to be found—we had to actually conduct these interviews. Since we were a group of three and we had to interview three employees from PADO for about an hour, we figured that we were to each interview one person.

Person one.

Person two.

Person three.

Communication and collaboration (or the lack of them)

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the main ‘problem’ that we noticed was the lack of communication (isn’t it always?), and by direct consequence, the limited collaboration between the employees. Most notably, we discovered that one of the employees was rather new in the company, and that he seemed to have great difficulties simply understanding what it was that his boss expected him to do.

The next step was to create three personas, or rather, general psychological portraits, and a fictitious scenario. All four items are show in the image below.

Printed personas and scenario

Printed personas and scenario.

Creating a fictitious scenario

Below is an image showing the scenario that Helle, Amid, and I came up with. Click on the
image to expand it.

The scenario illustrated in my trademark(!?), child-like fashion

First concepts of a board game

By then, a week had already passed and it was time for our class to head down South to go meet our future colleagues: the students of the the IT product design masters program at the University of Southern Denmark (USD) in Sønderborg, Denmark. The idea was that the students from UID and from USD would for joint teams, share the problems—and design opportunities—that they had found, and as a solution/final product, create a board game. My new team was then comprised of Amid (UID) and Carsten Dymler (USD), and myself.

A first prototype

1st proto

Our very first prototype of the game (cheap cardboard, push-pins, and post-its-as-playing-cards).

Quite rapidly and in line with the preceding research of both of our parties, we agreed that we should work on a game that would promote collaboration—as opposed to competition—with the other players of the game. Our biggest challenge was to conceptualize a game that would be quite convivial and be all about collaboration between the players, but that would retain a high level of strategic thinking.

Carsten testing out the second-generation prototype.

Carsten testing out the second-generation prototype.

Playing card.

Playing card (move) and Amid hiding behind it.

One of our tactics for doing that was to limit

Lots of user-testing

With this project, it was the first time that I conducted so much user-testing with so many ‘external’ users (e.g. people that weren’t in my immediate entourage). Below are photographs of the first official user testing session we had.

Carsten testing out the second-generation prototype.

First session of user-testing with people who either weren’t familiar with the game, design, or both.

Playing card.

The players wrote their comments and impressions on post-it notes after playing the game to give us their feedback on gameplay, overall concept, and their degree of enjoyment.

By that point in the development of the project, we had a first iteration of what would become the user guide that accompanied the game. We also modified the design of the playing cards, and introduced new ones. Below are a few images pulled from the final session of user-testing that preceded the production of 4 units of the game.

The final concept: Roundabout

The basic rules of the game

Roundabout is a collaborative team game for three (3) players;

The game board is divided in three (3) equal zones. Two of these zones (bordered with dashed red lines) can be crossed over by the Roundaballs, and one cannot (bordered with a full red line); Each player has a dedicated game board “zone” in front of him or her;

The goal of the game is to get the totality of the Roundaballs into the holes of matching colors (ex: the blue Roundaballs into the holes with a blue edge) within only one round of play;

A player has to play an action card at every turn.

gameplay

The elements

Clockwise: the playing cards, the game board, the Roundaballs, and the user guide.

The playing cards. (green means special)

The user guide. Drawings and layout by yours truly.

Playing and ending words

The photographs below were shot at the USD during the final event where around 60 people showed up to play the games that all of us in the class had made. After completing the game, the participants had to write comments to give us feedback for further improvements.

4 Roundabout games.

In action.

In action.

Gamer feedback.

It was lots of fun—not to mention incredibly humbling—to receive so much valuable feedback throughout this project. In retrospect, though, the most challenging part of this project was in my opinion not as much designing the actual game, but being able to work effectively as a team, particularly in Denmark where we had 10 days to conceptualize, test, and build four units of the game.

As ending words I would like to thank very dearly Catharina ‘Titti’ Henje for helping us out so much during our trip to Denmark (and also to UID for paying for virtually everything!).